Can Asteroids In The Asteroid Belt Gather Together And Become A Planet?


As most of us know, hypothetically, there was a planet named Phaeton between Mars and Jupiter, which then collapsed, but now, there are quite a few asteroids flying in the belt there.

Can they eventually gather in the planet?

Let’s get it together. First of all, it is worth saying that the hypothesis of the existence of a planet in the past between Mars and Jupiter has not been confirmed and is currently rejected by science.

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According to modern scientific ideas, the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter is the remnants of a protoplanetary disk from which all the planets of the solar system were formed. The asteroid belt is not the wreckage of a destroyed planet, but a planet that could not form.

asteroid belt
In this illustration, the asteroid belt is the white donut-shaped cloud. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

The gravity of Jupiter, as well as other giant planets, prevented this. The planetesimals forming in the belt under the influence of Jupiter’s gravity either collided, which led to their fragmentation, or received additional acceleration and left the belt. Calculations show that in the past, the mass of the asteroid belt was much higher. It is estimated that all current belt asteroids make up less than 7% of its mass in the past.

All the rest of the matter was thrown out of the belt by the gravity of the giants, especially Jupiter. Now, we can see in the asteroid belt entire areas of space almost completely free of asteroids: the so-called Kirkwood gap.

asteroid belt
Kirkwood gap

Returning to the original question, the answer is: apparently not, at least this is unlikely to happen naturally. If this could have happened, then in 4.5 billion years this would have happened. The fact that this did not happen at the dawn of the formation of the solar system, when there was much more material in the belt, also does not speak in favor of the possible formation of a planet from the material of the asteroid belt.

If somehow, all the asteroids of the belt would be artificially connected and a celestial body would be created from them, then it could probably be considered a planet. If we collect all the asteroids together, then their total mass will be approximately 4% of the mass of the moon. Moreover, the size of the diameter of such a planet will be only about 1,500 kilometers, i.e. one and a half times more than Ceres, the largest object of the asteroid belt.

asteroid belt

So, whether such a celestial body would be considered a planet is an open question. Most likely yes, since it would satisfy all the points of the planet’s definition, namely: it revolves around the Sun under the influence of its own gravity, has a spherical shape, and clears its orbit from other bodies of any noticeable nature.

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